Nominations are now open!

Kaitlin Smith Dean

Branch: National Guard

Duty Station: Kentucky

Number of Deployments: 4

Number of PCS's: 3

Share your military spouse story:
When I started law school I had no idea I was going to end up married to the military. Luckily, in 2011, two military spouses frustrated with the challenges of maintaining a legal career seemingly incompatible with the military lifestyle formed the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN). MSJDN has been instrumental in advocating for licensing accommodations for military spouse attorneys, removing employment barriers and providing a supportive network for attorneys married to servicemembers. I began working with MSJDN in January 2012, just prior to the ABA House of Delegates adopting the resolution supporting changes for state licensing for military spouses. My husband was about to deploy to Afghanistan, I was in my second year of law school, and I had no idea where the military would take us. After taking my first bar exam, I found a job working at a law firm in a small town with a population of 5,753. Nine months later, we received notice that we would be moving again, and my husband was again deployed with his new unit before we could even pack. I moved our belongings to a new state, far from family and friends, and prepared to take another bar exam two weeks later. Since we have lived in Louisville, my husband has deployed overseas twice, and and been called up for numerous extended active service missions with the Kentucky National Guard. Military life is not always easy, but you learn to adapt, be flexible, and most of all - resilient. In our house, we recognize that service to your country is something that happens both abroad and at home within our local community. We take an immense amount of pride in our service to our country through our daily actions, and enjoy sharing our military traditions with our Kentucky friends. In our house we say, "DUTY. HONOR. COUNTRY. KENTUCKY!"

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
After helping to work draft the Model ABA Rule with MSJDN, and assisting in the effort to get support for the rule to become law in the state of Kansas in 2012, I addressed the Kentucky Supreme Court during an open hearing on the proposed rule during the Kentucky Bar Association Annual Meeting in June of 2015. Effective January 1, 2016, the Kentucky Supreme Court enacted Rule 2.113, making Kentucky the 15th state to adopt a rule removing licensure barriers for military spouse attorneys. It is my hope that state supreme courts, bar associations, and the military and legal communities continue to recognize and support military spouse attorneys and their commitment to our armed forces, as well as their careers in the legal profession.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
In 2017, I was fortunate to be able to establish my own law firm, the Law Office of Kaitlin Smith Dean in Louisville, Kentucky. I dedicate a significant amount of pro bono hours every year towards fighting for veterans rights - whether it be in the context of Veteran' s Treatment Court, representation of a military spouse as a victim of domestic violence in an emergency protection hearing and a subsequent divorce; or, conversely, representing a wrongfully accused veteran or servicemember in a legal action. I continue to be an active member of MSJDN, and continue to advocate on behalf of all military spouses - for equal pay, job opportunities, etc.

Describe how you support your community:
I am involved in numerous local community organizations, and I am a huge proponent of inclusiveness. A few years ago, one of our military friends had a dream to become a horse trainer, and a few of our local military friends all pitched in and helped him start his dream. Our Jockey silks proudly featured a unique camo to display the military connection. Since that time, he has been featured in numerous articles, Kentucky television programing, documentaries, and other publications - all focusing on "a military veteran achieving his dream." We could not be more proud to support our friend, fellow military family, and horse trainer, Mark Simms. See https://www.paulickreport.com/news/people/dreams-do-come-true-army-veteran-mark-simms-gets-first-churchill-win/

What do you advocate for? Why?
Patriotism is something that is deep-rooted in my heart, and it is reflected in everything I do. Serving others, inspiring others through my actions, and advocating for service members, veterans, and military spouses will be a life-long commitment. Just to be able to say that I am part of the military community is humbling in itself. I do work for the Innocence Project and in 2015, I was able to walk my client, Floyd Bledsoe, out of a Kansas prison where he had spent almost 15 years for a murder he did not commit. A book detailing the case was recently published, "Four Shots in Oskie: Murder and Innocence in Middle America" by my friend, and then local newspaper reporter, Justin Wingerter. This book, and this cause, is what has inspired me on my newest endeavor.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I have just filed to run for Jefferson County District Court Judge in Louisville, Kentucky. It is through this position that I hope to further my hopes for a more comprehensive program to treat veterans, military members, and spouses. I will continue the fight for everything I care so deeply about, but I will do it with grace and passion in a way that will inspire others to join me. The courage, sacrifice and patriotism of our military members is something I will carry with me daily.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
This platform is the best tool to advocate for military members on any level - local, state, or national. I am not afraid to stand up and take a hard road, or a path less traveled. I am committed to the case. God bless America. Let's do this.

Nominations

Kaitlin is a National Guard spouse living in Louisville, KY, where she is about to announce her candidacy for District Court Judge. Kaitlin was an integral part of the successful MSJDN state licensing efforts in Kansas and Kentucky. She currently runs her own law practice where she does a tremendous amount of pro bono work for veterans and victims of domestic violence. She continues to consult on Innocence Project Cases, and works throughout her local community to inspire high schoolers to stand up against bullying. She has managed to make a home and a career in a community, far away from what she knew growing up, survived four deployments while there (5 total), and absolutely flourished no matter what life has thrown at her. She has stayed to support the mission, both at home and when her husband is abroad. She is the epitome of an exemplary military spouse, and I could not be more proud to make this nomination.
- by Terri Smith